Pet hair is one of the only downsides to owning a pet. Whether it’s dust bunnies on hard surfaces, stray hairs on soft furnishings, or a layer of fluff on pretty much everything you own, there are very few dogs and cats that don’t shed hair at all.
And while there are various solutions—from restricting the areas of the house that they’re allowed in, to using a damp cloth on fabrics to de-fuzz them, the quickest and easiest solution is a vacuum cleaner. But not just any vacuum cleaner. It’s tempting to think that a super powerful vacuum is the solution. And while power is definitely important, the best vacuum for pet hair won’t rely on power alone. You also need to bear in mind other factors, such as the filter, the brush roll, the weight of the machine, and whether you need a vacuum that can double as a mop and be used wet as well as dry.
Vacuums can be expensive purchases so to help you avoid making costly mistakes, here’s our guide to a few things you might want to consider when choosing the best pet vacuum.
- Best vacuum for pet hair with increased suction power: Kenmore Elite 31140 Pet Friendly Lightweight Bagged Upright Beltless Vacuum
- Best lightweight stick vacuum for pet hair: Dyson V11 Torque Drive Cordless Vacuum Cleaner
- Best tangle-free brush roll vacuum for pet hair: BISSELL ICONpet Cordless with Tangle Free Brushroll
- Best HEPA filter vacuum for pet hair: Hoover MAXLife Pro Pet Swivel HEPA Media Vacuum Cleaner
- Best robot vacuum for pet hair: Roborock Robot Vacuum and Mop
- Best budget vacuum for pet hair: Shark ZU561 Navigator Lift-Away Speed Self Cleaning Brushroll Lightweight Upright Vacuum with HEPA Filter
Things to consider when buying a vacuum for pet hair
Not all pets—and not all homes—are the same, so the best vacuum for pet hair for you will depend on you, your pets, and your living situation. We’re going to examine some of the vacuum features that should play a role in your decision-making process,from power and versatility to filter and brush roll, but ultimately how much weight (oh yep, that’s another consideration!) you give each will depend entirely on your specific needs.
How much suction power will you need?
When we’re talking about power in vacuum cleaners, it’s all too easy to look at the wattage— how much electrical power the vacuum cleaner needs to function. But that doesn’t really tell the whole story. The power you really care about in a vacuum cleaner, especially when you’re talking about the ability to pick up pet hair, is suction power. You’ll get the most suction power from your vacuum cleaner when the distance between the dirt and the machine is minimized (once you start adding long hoses and attachments, you’ll find that the suction drops). And, if you’ve got a high-grade filter on your vacuum, that will take more power to move the air through it than a basic filter so that can impact the suction too.
At the moment, while there are various ways in which suction can be measured, there is no agreed standard across the industry so, for example, you’ll find some pet vacuums boasting 2000Pa (or Pascals, which is a unit of pressure), while others will talk about how many RPM the motor does or their wattage. Annoyingly there’s no easy way to measure one against the other, so your best bet is to scour consumer reviews, or rely on a site that’s done the hard work for you.
Best vacuum for pet hair with powerful suction power: Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly Lightweight Bagged Upright Beltless Vacuum
Three Attachments Included
Combines multiple technologies for the ultimate in power and suction. Amazon
Two motors in the nozzle, and a double-walled design join together for effective suction. Designed to be used on multiple floor surfaces, this pet hair vacuum includes a handheld head specially designed for hair and dander, plus a flexible hose and extension wand to get to hard-to-reach areas.
How lightweight do you need it to be?
Does the weight of your vacuum cleaner matter to you? If the answer is no, you’re probably able-bodied and live on a single story with no stairs to clean, in which case, you can roll any old tank of a vacuum cleaner right out of the cleaning closet and get to work without a second thought. However, if you have stairs, like to use your vacuum cleaner to clean your car, or don’t want to enter any weightlifting competitions, then the weight of your device is going to be a consideration, especially if you’ve got a pet and need to be constantly cleaning up after it.
So how do you choose a pet vacuum cleaner that’s handy and easy to use? The answer is to switch out your upright for a cordless vacuum cleaner that has a wall-mounted charging station so it’s always close at hand. Look for a model that can be used as a handheld device too.
The challenge with cordless vacuums—especially when it comes to pet hair—is getting enough battery power into them so that they can maintain the level of suction that they need to clean the whole house without requiring a recharge. And that’s a bit of a balancing act. Batteries can be heavy so you need to strike a happy medium between battery power and weight.
Best lightweight stick vacuum for pet hair: Dyson V11 Torque Drive Cordless Vacuum Cleaner
A lightweight and intelligent cordless vacuum that claims comparable power to corded designs. Amazon
At about $600, the price might be a sticking point—but you get a lot of bang for your buck in a vacuum that weighs less than 8 pounds. According to the manufacturers, it still boasts twice the suction of any cordless vacuum. Intelligent sensors adjust power as you move across different surfaces and it comes with a mini-motorized tool for removing pet hair from upholstery.
What brush roll is best?
If you’ve ever spent what feels like days of your life trying to untangle or snip off snakes of hair from a vacuum roller that’s ground to a halt after being slowly strangled by a build-up of fibers, you won’t need any convincing of the benefits of a tangle-free brush roll.
The problem is that most vacuums have a roller with bristles on it that are important for helping dislodge the hair from the carpet, but if you’re not careful, once dislodged, the hair can become caught in the bristles and wrapped around the roller, eventually causing it to clog and even stop turning. A vacuum with good suction is going to be less prone to this, but manufacturers have developed other tricks that work alongside suction to prevent this from happening.
Different brands have different names for the technology: Shark calls their version of it Zero-M and uses a bristle guard to separate hair from the brush roll until an integrated comb can actively remove the hair from the bristles. Dyson has a tangle-free turbine tool that has counter-rotating brushes rather than a roller, while Bissel’s tangle-free brush roll uses specially engineered bristles and powerful suction to ensure hair stays off the brush roll and goes straight into the tank.
Best tangle-free brush roll vacuum for pet hair: BISSELL ICONpet Cordless with Tangle Free Brushroll
Easy To Maneuver
A cordless machine designed specifically for pet owners—and each purchase funds a pet charity. Amazon
This lightweight, cordless upright can be converted to a hand-held for easy access to more areas. Plus, it comes with a motorized brush specifically for pet hair. Although it packs less power (and a lower price) than the Dyson, the large brush roll has specially engineered bristles and powerful suction to ensure pet hair stays off the brush roll and goes straight into the tank.
What is the best vacuum for pet hair if you have allergies?
While there are some pets that are ideal if you suffer from allergies (remember Bo, the Obamas’ hypoallergenic Portuguese Water Dog?), you’ll still want to minimize the likelihood of triggering an attack by making sure that your vacuum cleaner can really blitz your home free of dander, dust, and pet hair. While most vacuum cleaners will suction up pretty much everything that’s in their path, it doesn’t necessarily follow that once it’s been sucked up it stays in the tank of the vacuum.
In fact, with a lot of vacuum cleaners, very small particles are actually recirculated into the air, so you’ll get the fur balls and crumbs in the tank, but minute fibers may just end up in the air, waiting to be breathed in and cause a reaction. The best vacuum cleaner for pet hair will have a HEPA (or high-efficiency particulate air) filter. This very high-spec filter can trap these tiny particles. HEPA filters are so effective that they can filter out 99.97 percent of particles that are 0.3 micron (a human hair is around 100 microns in diameter so that’s pretty small!). And, the good news is that many types of HEPA filters can be washed (consult the manual of your device).
Best HEPA filter vacuum for pet hair: Hoover MAXLife Pro Pet Swivel HEPA Media Vacuum Cleaner
Get It All
A versatile—and relatively inexpensive—vac that easily converts from upright to handheld. Amazon
With a powered brush especially for pet hair and dander, you can be sure you’re picking up as much as you can. While the sealed allergen system and HEPA filter trap 99% of dust and allergens inside the vacuum so once you’ve vacuumed it up, it’s not going anywhere. A crevice tool lets you reach behind the couch and up against the baseboards.
Need a constant cleaning companion?
For those who feel that they’re constantly vacuuming and mopping up after their pets, a robot vacuum could be a far less stressful solution than constantly getting your vacuum cleaner and bucket out—and far less costly than employing a housekeeper!
So how do they work? You’ve probably come across robot vacuums in the past. The early iterations weren’t particularly sophisticated; they basically ambled around a room turning around when they bumped into something, and accidentally falling down steps. But technology has moved on and the newest ones not only work with household assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, but also have sensors to help them map out a room so that they don’t clean the same area twice. They also “know” when their battery is getting low and can get themselves back to the charging station to juice up before starting again where they left off. Some also come with an app that you can use to instruct them to clean a particular area of a room, so if there’s a spillage, you don’t even have to get off the sofa to clear it up. The best part: They can continually pick up pet hair each time they run, so you don’t have to worry about doing a marathon cleaning session.
The dream? Well, kind of. A robot won’t do the stairs for you, so if you have staircases, they’ll need manual attention, plus they’re pricey, and while some do come with a mop function, most don’t allow you to use much more than water, so it’s pretty perfunctory. Plus, some don’t recognize the difference between a hard floor and carpet so you could end up with a soggy rug if you’re not careful.
Best robot vacuum for pet hair: Roborock Robot Vacuum and Mop
Friendly Little Helper
Intelligent vacuum and mop for the ultimate in low-maintenance cleaning. Amazon
Multiple sensors mean this robot cleans up to 30% faster so your 200 minutes of battery life will go further. Different modes mean it can be set to clean silently at night time, but you might need to use the louder turbo mode to ensure that all pet hair is picked up,
Best Budget Vacuum for Pet Hair: What You Get for Under $250
If you don’t have $500 to spend on a Dyson, don’t worry. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a good vacuum cleaner that’s going to work effectively at picking up pet hair. To get the most suction power for your money, you’re probably going to need to opt for a corded model, rather than a cordless one, which means it’s likely to be a little heavier. With that in mind, you can’t go wrong with a Shark Navigator. It has a self-cleaning brush roll, and can also be used as a handheld as well as an upright to make cleaning stairs and vehicles easier so you can get pet hair off of every surface.
Best brands to know
From brands that date back centuries to newcomers on the market, there are a wealth of vacuum brands out there, including many that have diversified their air and suction tech into a host of other product categories. Here are some that you might come across that are all strong contenders for choosing a vacuum cleaner engineered to get every last pet hair.
Founded by Brit James Dyson in 1978, the Dyson bagless vacuum was born after the inventor grew impatient with the clogging bags of his regular vacuum. It took more than 5000 prototypes before he made one he was happy with and now Dyson’s technology has spread around the world. The company has gone on to create fans and air purifiers and, more recently, entered the haircare market too.
Once a European brand that specialized in sewing machines, Shark is now part of SharkNinja, a parent company that produces everything from vacuum cleaners to kitchen appliances. In 2014, it was reported that, thanks to investing in marketing on television shopping channels, the company had managed to double its revenues to more than $1.6 billion and compete with Dyson as leader of the US vacuum cleaner market.
Launched in 1876 by a couple who needed a sweeping machine to keep their store tidy, the Bissells were soon selling more carpet sweepers than cups and saucers. By the late 1890s, Queen Victoria was a fan and in 1956 the first carpet cleaner was launched. The first vacuum followed in the 1990s. To this day, the company remains private, and family-run with fifth-generation CEO Mark Bissell.
A final word on the best vacuums for pet hair
In an ideal world, you’d be able to get a featherlight cordless vacuum cleaner that had as much power as a corded model and could go for days on a single charge, but you might have to wait a few more years until one of those is invented. Until then, if you want the best vacuum for pet hair, powerful suction is a must, ideally combined with a special attachment for soft furnishings and a roller that won’t get in a tangle. When it comes to the nice-to-have extras, like a cordless, lightweight model with a high-quality filtration system, focus on your personal circumstances and needs to decide what’s best.
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